Th­e­south- far­ing Min­nan ers

China Scenic - - Silk Road - By Gao Weinong, Hong Ying and Zeng Xiaoxia Pho­to­graphs by Ma Hongjie, and as cred­ited

The “South Seas” was the Sinocen­tric name used in Ming and Qing China (1368–1912) to re­fer to the re­gion of South­east Asia, in­clud­ing the Malay, Philip­pine and In­dian ar­chi­pel­a­gos, as well as the In­dochina and Malay penin­su­las. His­tor­i­cally, when the Chi­nese trav­elled to this area to make a living, it was called “travers­ing the South Seas” or “south-far­ing”. Among the hun­dreds of thou­sands of na­tives of the Min­nan Re­gion (south­ern Fu­jian), or “Min­nan­ers”, who have tra­versed the South Seas over the past cen­tury, pro­ceed­ing on to­ward the land of their dreams with­out hes­i­tat­ing or look­ing back, many re­mark­able stories have been borne of their jour­neys.

When Wong Nai Siong ar­rived here, he re­al­ized that while Chi­nese set­tlers had pre­ceded him by many years, most of them were mer­chants and min­ers. He found it hard to be­lieve that in a re­gion with widely branch­ing rivers, abun­dant rain­fall, and con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion, most of the land had yet to be cul­ti­vated.

The Ra­jang River is the largest in Sarawek, at over 500 kilo­me­ters in length. Wong Nai Siong per­formed de­tailed sur­veys of sev­eral lo­ca­tions along the Ra­jang River sys­tem, among which he chose Sibu to be­gin his work. He later re­turned to China and urged his friends, rel­a­tives and other lo­cals from his home­town to sail to Sibu and claim their own land. Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, through direct in­vi­ta­tions by him­self and in­di­rect ones through friends and rel­a­tives, Wong Nai Siong brought a to­tal of 1,118 peo­ple with him. They hailed from nu­mer­ous places of Fu­jian, in­clud­ing Min­qing, Min­hou and Fuqing. Some­times an en­tire vil­lage of men would be trav­el­ing to­gether, car­ry­ing their own tools and seeds, fol­lowed in tow by their wives, chil­dren, and other fam­ily mem­bers. They had quite lit­er­ally re­lo­cated their en­tire lives, to what they called Sun­gai Merah in Sibu, which they were build­ing them­selves.

When the set­tlers first reached Sibu, they con­structed sim­ple and tem­po­rary homes called “at­taps”, six in to­tal, each con­tain­ing five homes. The Sibu re­gion is very damp, thus to build their homes the set­tlers had to learn from the na­tives, who lived in what were called “long­houses”, which were bal­anced sev­eral me­ters off the ground on a “nest” of long, thin stilts. A sin­gle long­house would ac­com­mo­date 20-30 fam­i­lies, who resided in homes in a fash­ion much like the cars of a train. For the beams and pil­lars they used wood, all of which orig­i­nated from nearby forests. In vir­tu­ally all other places bam­boo was used, in­clud­ing the floors, which were con­structed of strips of bam­boo laid to­gether and cov­ered with palm sheets for neat­ness con­cern. The bed­rooms and kitchens of each unit were sep­a­rated by sheets of bam­boo, while the roofs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.